I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard, “That’s just crazy!” In 1976, I decided to run my first marathon. I wasn’t a runner, but I thought running the Boston Marathon would be a pretty cool goal.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard, “That’s just crazy!”
In 1976, I decided to run my first marathon. I wasn’t a runner, but I thought running the Boston Marathon would be a pretty cool goal.
So, I bought my first pair of running shoes — Nike Waffle Trainers — in July and went for a seven-mile run. In December, I headed to Baltimore to try to run a qualifying time to earn a number for the world famous Boston Marathon. Most of my friends said: “That’s just plain crazy!”
Perhaps they were right. Had I sat down to carefully analyze what would be required to successfully break three hours, I probably wouldn’t have tried. Had I fully understood the discomfort I would experience training and then competing, I probably would have agreed that it was a silly idea.
Fortunately, I didn’t listen to my logical friends. I worked hard, qualified and ran my first of 35 consecutive Bostons. Funny thing is that now most of my friends are runners, and most have completed numerous marathons.
In 2006, my buddy, Dave McGillivray, encouraged me to compete in the World Championship Ironman in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. Honestly, I thought, “That’s just crazy,” (TJC) but I took his advice and began training for my first triathlon.
In retrospect, had I completely understood how crazy it was for a non-swimmer to have the audacity to believe that within one year I could successfully swim 2.4 ocean miles, bike 112 miles and then run a marathon — all on the island of Hawaii where the road temperatures broke 100 degrees — I probably never would have taken that first dip into Stiles Pond.
When I told my running friends my plan, yes, I got the TJC comment. Despite the odds, I worked hard, learned to swim and accumulated more wetsuits, bikes and other related triathlon gear than I thought possible. Slowly but surely, I became Ironman trained. In 2007, the impossible dream came true — I became an Ironman.
Funny thing is that I am beginning to see more and more of my running buddies taking that same first dip into Stiles Pond, heading to the bike store and finding the joy of a new challenge.
A couple of years ago, I read Chris McDougal’s book, “Born to Run,” and was inspired to explore barefoot running. The TJC folks had a field day with that decision. The thought of abandoning running shoes that had evolved over the past 35 years into the highly engineered protective gear that keeps us from getting horribly injured was simply too much for my logical pals to bear.
Because I had been repeatedly injured while wearing those engineered shoes, I decided the highly evolved foot that had served mankind for thousands of years might be worth exploring.
After more than two years, I have concluded that, while barefoot may not be the best choice for everyone, no one should be afraid to go to the local golf course — after hours — and slip off the running shoes to feel the joy of barefooting.
For those who are concerned about the harder surfaces on which we typically run, the Vibram Five Fingers is a great alternative. Sure, it takes a while for the body to readapt to the way we were meant to run, but the patience is worth the newfound comfort.
The really funny thing is that not only are many of my running friends sporting the Vibram Five Fingers, but the major running shoe companies are producing minimalist models that mimic barefoot running.
So this crazy running habit, triathlon addiction and barefoot running nonsense have proven to be a bit less nutty than it may have seemed at first glance. Who knows what crazy escapade will be next.
What I do know is that keeping an open mind to new challenges and opportunities has made my life a lot more interesting and a lot more fun.
Lace up your shoes — or not — and go for a run.
Tom Licciardello is a founding member of the Merrimack Valley (Mass.) Striders. Licciardello has participated in 34 Boston’s and 87 marathons.He has also completed the Hawaii Ironman triathlon. Professionally, he is a Certified Financial Planner and resides in North Andover, Mass., with his wife, Lyn. He may be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.